Potato Salad…

IMG_0123When it gets close to Memorial Day, I can almost hear:

  • the pots bubbling,
  • glass baking dishes clinking,
  • mixers whirring,
  • grill scrubbing,
  • patios, carports and docks getting hosed off,
  • lawn mowers roaring,
  • plastic containers burping and
  • can openers humming as-

Homes and church grounds are readied for Decoration Day as Memorial Day is known in the South. Of course, it is a day observed as the Official Kickoff of Summer with picnics and family gatherings too. Weeks in advance, folks have been getting their menus ready – meats, breads, sides, desserts and salads- Coleslaw and Potato Salad are a given. I tend to think of eating Potato Salad in warm weather. Chilled, it’s a cooling side dish. I do not believe I have ever attended a bonafide Memorial Day Picnic, Dinner on the Grounds, Church Picnic, Bereavement Buffet, Family Reunion, Barbeque or Summer Milestone occasion that at least one big bowl of Potato Salad was not on the menu, often several variations. I can hear it now…

‘Well, you know Weezie Walters always brings her Potato Salad, it’s the best- so mark that off the list’…

There’s always one or more that can be counted on to make it. Potato Salad may not always be lauded or applauded, it might be treated like a stepchild of Southern Food but we always want it. Some folks make it plain, some folks make it fancy by adding pimento, pickle relish, olives or other ingredients to make Potato Salad their own special version. All classic Potato Salads have a mayonnaise and mustard base which is mixed in a bowl before tossing gently, since warm potatoes more readily absorb the flavors. Family recipes abound. Potato Salad can be made a few days ahead, it could feed the masses. In my family, we went for Plain Potato Salad with few ingredients. My grandmother added one mystery  ingredient that was so subtle, most couldn’t find or identify it, but then I’m getting ahead of myself… I ran across a recipe for a Church Homecoming- which called for:

  • 10 pounds of potatoes,
  • one dozen eggs,
  • 5 cups of mayonnaise and
  • 4 cups of pickle relish and at least 15 more ingredients!

The cook notes- ‘Makes 25 servings. This recipe can be doubled or tripled’  Really? Oh my goodness! That’s a lot of Potato Salad!!

I have to admit when I make Potato Salad at home, I generally make more than we will eat at one meal- it is so good with Baked Black Pepper Ham or Pit Barbeque. A Sunday Dinner of Home Fried Chicken, fresh Pole Beans and Southern Potato Salad is amazing. For a cool summer lunch, Potato Salad is wonderful all by itself, add fresh tomato slices, a dose of black pepper and Saltine Crackers. Delicious! Even Hot Dog Suppers or Grilled Hamburger Gatherings seem to cry out for Coleslaw, Baked Beans and  Potato Salad.  Family recipes for Potato Salad recipes are not always written down, I know that I never look at our recipe when I make it!  This time, because I wanted to share the recipe with y’all, I kept track! Please feel free to adjust it and make Potato Salad your own- varied ingredients make it unique and delicious! But hey, if you’re like me, you may like it plain.IMG_0125

Camellia’s Potato Salad

In a large pot of salted water, place 5-6 medium all purpose white potatoes (scrubbed and washed) with 3 large eggs, bring water to a rolling boil. Wait 3-4 minutes before removing eggs. Allow eggs to cool. Reduce the heat, allow the potatoes to continue bubbling undercover until fork tender but not mushy. Ten minutes longer is generally sufficient. We don’t want mashed Potato Salad here!

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 1 ½ cups of mayonnaise, (homemade if possible, or a commercial mayonnaise that includes lemon juice in the list of ingredients)
  • 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
  • 5-6 drops of hot sauce.
  • Here is that mystery ingredient- On the fine side of a box grater, grate at least one tablespoon and juice of a yellow onion- this is to taste! Now, no one wants to chomp down on a big piece of onion in their potato salad but fine grated onion adds so much to the flavor!

Mix well. Peel warm potatoes, the skins should slip right off. Cut into small cubes. Finely chop a good size stalk of celery. Peel the hard boiled eggs- on the large side of the same box grater, shred the hard boiled eggs. (Occasionally, if I get the eggs grated before the potatoes are ready I will go ahead and stir those into the mustard/mayonnaise mixture)

IMG_2818Add cubed potatoes, celery and eggs to the mayonnaise mixture- Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss carefully so the potatoes hold their shape. Sprinkle with a dusting of Paprika. Cover and Chill, if possible. Potato Salad gets better when it is chilled and the flavors have a chance to meld. This recipe makes 10-12 half cup servings.

*There are as many recipes for Potato Salad as there are families who love it. Make it your own. Make it all year round as some folks do. Celebrate milestones in your life with a bowl of Potato Salad added to a buffet table. Share your own memories and versions of Potato Salad! Marinated  or German Potato Salad is also very good, perhaps beyond this Southern Girl’s expertise!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

 

Happy Birthday, Darlin’…

morton tims event 1 002Well, we have another birthday at Camellia’s Cottage today… an important one! This is the man I saw across the room decades ago- and recognized the other half of myself, my future and my life. And a good life it is.  When you love a person, you don’t mind his quirks-

  • He loves to vacuum anything… as long as he can use his Shop Vac!
  • He makes playing the guitar look easy but practices every. single. day- with a metronome!
  • He tends to have a yard cat who always adores him- one jumped in the car after church one Sunday- soon it became apparent she had a bit of a problem…so he named her Mag- da- leen…if you get my drift. His current mouser is simply named Miss Kitty.
  • And here is a quirk which I didn’t appreciate until I became an older model myself- he loves and cares for old cars…not particularly good looking old cars either!

There is more…such good memories he has given to me, our family and our community! He is still so good- lookin’, easy on the eyes as they say…our children are beautiful and for sure are so much like him, well let’s just say, I’m blessed. Almost everyone who knows him has a story to tell, which is especially amusing and gratifying to me. If I had to describe him in spiritual terms, this is a man ‘who loves mercy and walks humbly with his God.’ He has made an absolute truth of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s phrase… ‘Grow old with me, the best is yet to be…’!  Happy Birthday Darlin’…

Love y’all, Camellia

*Micah 6:8 KJV Bible verse used descriptively.

The Sugar Sand Beaches of Alabama…

IMG_2845Where can you find- White Sugar Sands, Blue Skies, Beautiful Waves, Gardenias, Live Oaks, Sand Dollars, Gulf Breezes and Palm Trees?

Some of the best seafood in the world, right on the Gulf of Mexico. Where can you find Paradise? IMG_2869

Right here in- My Sweet Home Alabama, which has 31 miles of amazing, powdery, almost blindingly White Sugar Sand Beaches…IMG_2864

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs taken by me in Orange Beach, Alabama. Most of the photographs were taken at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach. Feel free to share- folks usually don’t believe we have beaches like this way down south in Alabama.

Ice Follies…

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If you live in the hot humid South, Ice isn’t optional, it’s a necessity… I learned this from an early age- my Uncle Charles owned an Ice House, back then folks had Ice Boxes- even when ladies began to buy refrigerators, many still said, ‘It’s in the Ice Box’. Where do you think Ice Box Pies came from? Anyway, Uncle Charles taught us, by example, that there is a culinary art form to-

  • Icing down co-colas
  • Ice was a must have to use with Rock Salt to make Homemade Ice Cream
  • And of course the South cannot drink our Sweet Tea without Ice

Many of us pronounce- ‘Eye-ce’, with two syllables. Southern folks need our Ice. Mommas all over the South would say- ‘Stop crunchin’ that ice, your teeth are gonna fall out, not to mention it’s bad manners to sit there crunchin’ ice.’  And still, especially crude menfolks would sit there with glasses empty of all but the Ice, shaking it and then crunchin’ the Ice. Not southern ladies, oh no, we had Ice Water Teas- yes, you read that right- leave it to us to figure out a way to make Ice Water into a Tea! And, well, it was nice… a sparkling glass filled with Ice and maybe a sprig of Mint or a think slice of Lemon, walking around with a water glass, holdin’ it up above our waists.  I recall going to an Ice Water Tea, the hostesses made festive ice cubes and put them in fancy glasses. They actually served Water with Ice Follies set on doilies atop Silver Trays! It was impressive!IMG_2827

I’ve been sipping my share of ice water while doing a little yard work here at the Cottage- the Wild Strawberries, Violas, Wood Violets, Clover and Oxalis are charming here in Springtime. I was reminded of Ice Rings -a Ring Mold studded with fruit and sometimes flowers, that floated lazily in a punch bowl for Teas, Parties and Weddings, surely that was how those hostesses figured out how to make festive ice cubes! I rounded up an old ice tray, clipped and washed a few leaves and blooms to make Ice Follies. IMG_2822

These are so easy, children can help out with the picking and making- and it sure would make a Mother’s Day Breakfast Tray or Brunch sweet and pretty. I’ve been putting mine in freezer bags to use through the spring and summer. IMG_2831

I imagine I will use mine to encourage hydratin’ myself or greeting a guest with-

  • ‘Darlin’ would you like something to drink?’
  • ‘Why yes, I am thirsty now that you mention it, but I’ll just take water.’

Won’t they feel special when the glass of water is served on a doily with an Ice Folly or two? IMG_2837

Maybe the custom of Ice Water Teas will be revived, at the very least, maybe you will just have a little fun making Ice Follies for Spring Parties, Teas, Graduations or to dress up an everyday meal. I’m gonna risk this- Ice Follies are a great way to say, ‘I love you berry much!’ or ‘Good Luck!’.

This has been a nostalgic week, my best friend from high school and college met me for lunch this week- halfway between her town and mine, she gave me a beautiful White Hydrangea in honor of my mother, we had such a good time! IMG_2826

The two of us attended quite a few of those Ice Water Teas together! Hopefully I will see her again soon, I know this for sure- every year the White Hydrangea blooms? I’ll think of my beautiful friend. Meanwhile, if you try making festive ice cubes? I’d love to hear your ideas for Ice Follies of your own…

Love y’all, Camellia

*Use only pesticide free- edible leaves, herbs or flowers when making Ice Follies!

*And photographs are obviously mine.

Teaching…

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                                    ‘When you learn, teach…’ Maya Angelou

For every Schoolteacher, every Sunday School teacher, every Significant Adult in our lives who poured what they had learned-then took the time to teach us- we are thankful.  Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photograph of a 4 H class – photographer unknown

As school year ends and graduations begin…may we be mindful that every magnificent vocation and  astounding career begins with those who have learned and chose to teach.

Sea Soaked Cities of the South…

IMG_2766When you live in a Southern Coastal state- the Spring rising of Sap in Southern Pines, the Budding of Magnolias and the Pull of Tide draws us to our Sea Soaked Cities….circling down the powerful Atlantic Ocean- around the Gulf of Mexico, the migration begins.  Cultured beauties give way to ocean drenched dives- dress shoes yield to boat shoes, silk slippers litter closet floors in favor of flip flops- Fishing Vessels pull out of winter storage and Sailboats slip away from docks, soft melodies shift to beach music or jazz.

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Mobile Bay

 

The Sea Soaked Cities of the South draw us like moths to a porch light. We ignore the heat and humidity in favor of a cobbled street crawl,relish the comfort food, sip tall frosted glasses and speak with slow southern drawls.

  • Charleston’s culture and sophistication with her bubbling fountains, South of Broad mansions where no woman would be caught dead sitting on the front porch in housecoat and curlers to magnificent church spires of the Holy City, folks are drawn in carriages or mesmerized by soft sea grass baskets, lured by creamy brown pralines or shrimp and grits- but it is the Battery or harbor with it’s sea-going vessels that tug at our hearts.
  • Savannah’s Squares, wonderful Historic Town Homes with lush gardens, the whispers of posh garden parties or Midnight’s Good or Evil enchants us- the sight of the water  ultimately pulls sea searching souls to haunts on the wharf and huge cargo ships which still the hearts of mere mortals. The Atlantic pulls folks to barrier islands, marshes and beaches.
  • Key West’s Sherbet Painted Ladies and Ocean Drinking Dives, Street Performes, Tall Ships and gasp worthy Sunsets soothe the soul.
  • Mobile has her own sophistication amidst azaleas, southern genteel ladies and gentlemen with unfailing civility; across Mobile Bay- beautiful Bay Houses with names like Restoration overhung with massive live oaks sporting long gray beards; small towns with quaint cottages in Daphne, Fairhope, Point Clear and Magnolia Springs.
  • White Sugar Sand Beaches on the Gulf of Mexico pull us out of our winter doldrums from spring to fall. Ocean Drenched Dives, the promise of warm sunshine draw us to Gulf Shores, Perdido or Orange Beach.
  •  New Orleans’ Garden District is genteel, yet it’s the black lace balconies in the French Quarter, the smell of chicory coffee and fluffy beignets near the Waterfront that draws folks into a different state of mind.

What is it about the presence of a large body of water that heals and renews? There is a powerful spiritual energy at work in the Sea Soaked Cities of the South.  Is it the presence of long lost spirits or the tidal magnetism? More than a dozen years ago, in the pointed boot of Texas’ own Sea Soaked City- Galveston- I found these Old Men of the Sea tossed like conch shells on a dusty shelf in a Nautical Repair Shop near the ocean- with no idea what I would do with them I had to have them- Dried Bamboo Roots with Carved Bearded Faces. I mounted them inside the round frame like a porthole to remind me of my own love of the seashore. IMG_2770

I rarely remember a summer of my life without at least one trip to the Beach- building sandcastles, stooping for shells or tiptoeing in the edge of the ocean- ever aware of undertow warnings or the way it felt to have sun tipped shoulders or new freckles on my nose.  The salt air settles into our minds; like mystical memories there remains the longing to go back and back- to the gulf’s bounty of fish, oysters, blue crab and pink shrimp made a hundred delectable ways, swimsuits damp with sea water- bright umbrella-ed beach chairs with her giggles shared or beach books read; the glimpse of a glimmering dolphin, the tiny translucent sidewalking sand crabs or a long leg-ged white egret standing silent on a dock ; the soft  pungent smell of salt water, the life restoring sea air, the feel of sand between my toes. Ocean Drenched Dives and Sea Soaked Cities of the South with her bayous, bays and beaches seem as

  • Confessionals and Cathedrals
  • Altars and Alcoves-
  • Shell Crusted Grottoes with Screeching Sea Gull Pipe Organs

We slow down, contemplate, let our minds go blank for a spell. Just let me start getting out summer beach bags and there will be errant grains of sand and an inevitable seashell- rubbed between my fingers, mindlessly looking for the sharp broken hinge. Ridiculously, I let myself think that the other half of the seashell or an errant piece of myself might be found if I return to the shore. Always convinced- it’s that pull of the tides, the magnetism of foamy waves ever running toward to the beach and back out  toward the shimmering horizon that gives me a longing for the Sea Soaked Cities of the South. I’m heading there soon…

Love y’all, Camellia

*Old Men of the Sea Photographs are mine- Jeremy Miniard’s Mobile Bay photograph is wonderful! And the phrase ‘sea soaked cities’ and ‘ocean drenched dives’ was inspired by Charleston’s own Josephine Pinckney who wrote a book called ‘Sea Drinking Cities’, slightly scandalous in her day- I look forward to reading her books.

Mother…

IMG_2733Our Mother received Mother’s Day flowers early this year… She was surely born with a smile on her face, we are not alone in this observance- ‘Always had a smile on her face.’ The most common refrain. IMG_0127

She was always beautiful, delightful, happy, funny- incredibly talented and truly loved by so many. She loved her home in Alabama, she loved her church, her community and she loved her family- imagine! Five grandchildren, five great grandchildren- why, that is double grace. In the Scripture she loved so well- Five is representative of Grace. I like to think those grandchildren were the Grace Notes of her life!

Her life wasn’t always easy, yet she lived with love, grace, peace and joy. She stepped into Heaven’s Balcony along with the others who have gone on before us, watching those of us who remain- as we ‘run the race set before us’.  I know this- Mother ran Life’s Race and finished well. When her sweet body had worn out, I am convinced that the Lord called forth His Strongest, most Beautiful Angel and said ‘Go get Betty, bring her Home to Me.’ With a heavenly escort, Mother slipped the bonds of earth- up thru the stars, the galaxies and the heavenlies- the Angel delivered Mother into the Loving Arms of our Savior. She will be missed. She will not soon be forgotten. IMG_2731

Mother loved flowers- she received Mother’s Day flowers early this year- surrounded by her family and so many friends. To honor Mother, a favorite part of the yard here at the Cottage- which is filled with my grandmother’s Spiderwort, Hostas along with ferns and big blue Mophead Hydrangeas- Mother loved that part of the garden, so it will be re-worked and dedicated to her. Sorrow and gardening tends to bring me to my knees. Hopefully, in the succeeding years, when the flowers bloom- memories of Mother and my Grandmother will return every Spring..IMG_0842

May she rest in peace. Alongside others we have loved and lost, I hope Mother enjoys her seat in Heaven’s Balcony, no doubt she is still smiling.

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us, let us run with patient endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith’.

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs belong to the Camellia’s Cottage Community- we are thankful for all of the blessings and acts of service, love and kindness afforded to our family during this time. Scripture is from Hebrews 12:1-2

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                                                  Betty Holmes Watts 1929-2017